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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off 

And start all over again at the new, the improved blog, located at the easy-to-remember URL of http://www.sarahweinman.com. So what's so great about the new digs? Well, you'll just have to see for yourselves.

So goodbye, Blogger--it's been a swell seven-plus months. But now it's time to move on.

Monday, May 31, 2004

How to make this girl very happy 

Write a retrospective on Ross Thomas, as Richard Giller did yesterday for the Boston Globe. Instead of listening to me wax rhapsodic, let Giller explain what made Thomas's novels so wonderful:

[The] novels provide quintessential windows into the world of Thomas. It's a shadowy place where political power and big money intersect, and where all the important plays are made behind the scenes. The adversaries -- morally compromised heroes confronting irredeemable villains -- are invariably brilliant, treacherous, and cynical. Deception is the order of the day, or rather night, since an inordinate amount of the action occurs between midnight and dawn. Thomas takes you into the hotel rooms, corporate suites, and political offices of the people who know the score, the way the game is played, and exactly which levers to pull.

Make no mistake. For all their worldliness, these are not the burnt-out cases one finds in the pages of Graham Greene or John le Carr. Tough as nails, these guys (and not a few gals) run the gamut from congressmen to con men, political fixers to third-world dictators. They combine an outsize appetite for life with an eye locked steadily on the prize, and they play the game with a zest that is refreshing, inventive, and bold.

The two novels Giller cites--BRIARPATCH and OUT ON THE RIM--are fine places to start, although I'm also partial to the most recent reissue, 1983's MISSIONARY STEW (with an introduction from this fine blogger) because it's about the lead-up to an election year and the various machinations, blackmail, and murder (of course) that results from it. Cynical, world-weary, but ultimately idealistic--that's why I love him.

And how to make this girl extremely happy--reissue the rest of his novels! Earth to St. Martin's Press...

There's perverse, and then there's this 

A 15-YEAR-old schoolboy has become the first person in Britain to be convicted of inciting somebody to murder him.

The boy, who may only be identified by the pseudonym John, invented a cast of characters in an Internet chat room as part of an elaborate plan to commission his own killing, the Manchester Crown Court heard this week.

He was 14 when he fell in love with Mark, a boy two years older, and, in a bizarre online deception, adopted the guise of a female secret service agent to order Mark to stab him in a suburban alley.

The older boy was meant to end John's life with the words, "I love you, bro."

Mark carried out the stabbing in Altrincham, Cheshire, shortly before 8pm on June 29 last year. He knifed John in the chest and abdomen. The second blow cut into his kidney, liver and gall bladder, nearly killing him.
Some things should just stand alone without comment.

The last day of May 

And god, where does the time go? It's practically summer, and some part of me thinks it's still, I dunno, February or something. I don't get it. Anyway:

Oh my gawd, Patrick Anderson truly has the Line of the Week with the opening phrases of his review of Michael Fredrikson's new book A DEFENSE FOR THE DEAD: "The serial-killer thriller is the cicada of popular fiction. The damn things are everywhere." Accordingly, the review is an extended rant about the subgenre and only at the very end does Anderson review--sort of--the book.

Although Janet Maslin seems to take umbrage with the whole concept of "literary re-animation," she does like Colm Toibin's novel of Henry James, THE MASTER.

What's up with the historical novel, and why is it such a popular fictional genre these days? TheGlobe and Mail isn't exactly sure but they turn to two popular authors, Bernard Cornwell and Sarah Dunant, for some answers.

Even though I get all the titles mixed up, plenty of other folks don't and devour John Sandford's thrillers with ease. He's interviewed by Linda Wertheimer at NPR's All Things Considered.

Boris Akunin, who's threatening to conquer the English-speaking world in the same manner that he's taken over most every European country with his Erast Fandorin novels, talks to the Philly Inquirer about why he, an academic trained in philology, gravitated towards crime fiction.

Ooops--Jane Jakeman, who is both a crime writer and a historian, nitpicks about the overall premise of THE RULE OF FOUR--it seems somebody has published a layman's version of the Hypnerotomachia which figures so strongly in the year's "runaway" success.

And I must wonder--did Ron Bernas and I read the same book? His review of Mark Billingham's LAZYBONES seems so...cursory, somehow.

The Oregonian's review of the ENEMY is fairly standard but for this--no, no, The Rock cannot be Reacher. And why must people imagine their favorite characters in a movie version anyway? Another rant for another time....

And finally, J.K. Rowling gives her blessing to the exponentially growing subculture of Harry Potter fan fiction. Well, the G-rated no-sex kind, I think all the slash stuff might not exactly curry favor with the lady (but then again...)

Sunday, May 30, 2004

It's all about the interviews 

Joe Bloggs, the outpost for the UK-based 3AM Magazine, has been conducting a spate of interviews with some of the leading lights of the litblogging community. Now, here's mine.

The online mags speak out 

First up: a shiny new issue of Plots With Guns, with the usual mix of great stories, insane interviews, and other things that make it such a special magazine. Like Trev Maviano's conversation with Mark T. Conard--noir author, philosopher, and judging from this interview, an all around freak who bests and is bested only by the freakishness of Maviano. The co-editor calms down some in his Earful to talk about just how horrible and depressing the world can get--a cold, but necessary dose of reality that sometimes gets lost. As for the stories, they include the likes of Pat Lambe, the superhuman Stephen D. Rogers (how many hundred stories has he written now?) Stacey Cochran, and Tim Wohlforth, who gets away with as cool an opening line I've seen in ages.

Once you're done devouring the new PWG, go check out issue six of Shred of Evidence. Editrix Megan Powell has put together a cracking collection of stories from the likes of Gerald So, Ed Lynskey, and the aforementioned Messrs Cochran and Rogers.

Hey hey, it's the update 

And first, for those who wrote in after Friday's kvetch-inflected post, thank you. It finally hit me what the problem is--I'm not very good at reacting to cars that honk at me or are otherwise in the way when I'm in the middle of parking. Throws me off my rhythm or something. Anyway, having pinpointed the problem, I do believe I will solve it--or else, another five years of clawing my way through driver exam hell awaits...

But you all want links. So, without further adieu:

I'm a teeny-tiny bit disappointed with the NYT Book Review this weekend--not sure why, and perhaps it's just me. But what's there to see this time around? Hmm....Michael Wood's puzzling over a book that compares/contrasts film critic Pauline Kael and general critic Susan Sontag. I'm confused too--how did the book proposal work, exactly? Also, Neil Bremel finds the parts of Peter Esterhazy's CELESTIAL HARMONIES to be greater than the sum, and Jodi Kantor is underwhelmed by Maureen Orth's delving into the cult of celebrity worship.

Moving to the Book World, it focuses much of its attention on WWII-based books--timely, as it's the 60th anniversary of D-Day (already? Wasn't the 50th not that long ago? God, time flies...) Otherwise, Jennifer Howard struggles with Claire Tristram's AFTER, a novel of taboos and terrorism; Alice K. Turner has some fun with THE RULE OF FOUR; Ron Chernow grapples with his addiction to research, an affliction I am ridiculously in the throes of myself; and Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is on board the PUSHKIN AND THE QUEEN OF SPADES bandwagon.

The Guardian Review has some choice crime fiction-y stuff, like Robert Edric's severe disappointment with Susan Hill's foray into the genre after 30+ years of writing ghost stories. It seems she's gone for the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" formula of serial killer/thriller. Ah well. Meanwhile, Matthew Lewin rounds up the newest thrillers by Jonathan Nasaw, Jonathan Kellerman, Jeffery Deaver and Robert Goddard. In more mainstream fare, there's the already hotlinked piece on the late, lamented B.S. Johnson, Maya Jaggi's lengthy profile of Jeanette Winterson, the painstaking process of restoring William Blake to rightful glory, and Nicholas Clee goes gaga for Gerard Jones' GINNY GOOD, albeit with an acknowledgement that the book is "difficult to market."

The Observer is, quite simply, All About Robert McCrum. Not that I'm complaining in the slightest, as his recollection of 25 years in the book publishing world is funny, timely, and bloody well-written. Then there's his Top Ten books of all time, given in honor of the ongoing Hay Festival. Sure, it's a fairly traditional list, but hell, it's a good starting point. Also, Rachel Cooke looks at the B.S. Johnson biography and declares that as a "book about a man who cares about novels by a man who cares about novels, you should run out and buy it if you care too."

Over at the oh-so-lovely G&M, Margaret Cannon offers up a slightly sparser-than-usual crime column. Included in the roundup are new novels by Mary Higgins Clark, Nicci French, Jeffrey Miller, and Yasido Uchida, as well as an interesting compendium of female characters in crime fiction and film, HARDBOILED AND HIGH-HEELED, that Cannon really raves about. Meanwhile, Rebecca Caldwell interviews the judges of the Griffin Prize to figure out how the hell they can sift through so much poetry and judge who's the best; Martin Levin suffers from Bush Burnout, considering how many books on the current prez are being published on a daily (it seems) basis; and Morley Callaghan's complete stories, now collected all together for the first time, garner some nice notices.

The best of the rest:

Perhaps the Big Interview of the weekend is with Val McDermid, whose latest Tony Hill/Carol Jordan bestseller (hey, check the Sunday Times list in a couple of weeks and you'll see) THE TORMENT OF OTHERS is just out in the UK. The Sunday Herald profile looks at her hard-won success, how raising a child may (or may not) affect the graphic subject matter of many of her books, and the difficult breakup she had with her partner of 11 years.

Mark Billingham, who is about to embark on his longest (and strangest, according to his itinerary--Austin to NYC to Phoenix in 48 hours??) book tour yet, is interviewed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about the usual things, mostly about his new-to-the-US Tom Thorne novel, LAZYBONES.

Randy Wayne White gets the Q&A treatment by one of his semi-local papers, the Southwest Florida News-Press.

Cosmo editor and mystery novelist Kate White, whose books I keep turning to when I want an instant dose of enjoyable brain candy, is interviewed in the Times-Dispatch.

David Montgomery rounds up some of the newest up-and-coming writers on the crime fiction scene, like P.J. Tracy, Ace Atkins, Denise Hamilton, Jonathon King and Chris Mooney.

Another day, another profile of Hari Kunzru. This one actually names his girlfriend. Aside from that, it's fairly boilerplate, methinks.

Oh, bloody hell--I'd totally forgotten that Helen Fielding's new book, OLIVIA JOULES AND THE OVERACTIVE IMAGINATION, is just about to be released in the US. To "celebrate" this momentous occasion, the Albuquerque Journal interviews Fielding on the change of pace. Meanwhile, I'll just sob quietly that more deserving authors can't get the same amount of press coverage.

Dan Pope (whose byline is curiously absent from the piece) details a far-too-common affliction for debut novelists--the curse of the second novel.

And anyone who reads this blog long enough knows that the book industry is a tough nut to crack--but the Bradenton Herald decides to take a whack at that old chestnut by talking to a few people about how it's oh so hard to make it.

Looking for mysteries in any city, any town? Carole Barrowman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel lists a dizzying variety of books for your reading pleasure, whether you're looking to read about Manhattan, LA, or Peoria. OK, I made the last one up, because as far as I know, there are no mysteries set in that town...but if I'm wrong, well...?

Orhan Pamuk's SNOW is getting reviewed in a lot of places, but the one at Scotland on Sunday seems to sum things up quite nicely, deeming the new work a "stirring read."

I'm not exactly sure why Dorman Shindler needs to slag off the thriller genre as a whole in his review of Lee Child's THE ENEMY, but I suppose it's just too much work to leave a primarily positive review as is instead of justifying it somehow.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer gets on the RULE OF FOUR bandwagon, and call for the inevitable--a sequel. Ah, but don't you know such a thing will either a) be a while or b) never see the light of day if you reference that earlier "curse of the second novel" article?

Self-help books....for kids? That does seem to be the new trend, according to Eva Gzowska of the Independent. Bloody hell, what's next, self-help primers for pets? Oh, wait....

And finally, Emily Maguire, I love you. Thank you for writing this, really.

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